Later/ later on

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Artrella, Apr 4, 2005.

  1. Artrella Banned

    Hello people!
    When are they used? In which cases should I use "later on"? What does the preposition "on" mean with "later"? Does it suggest action in progress? Does it suggest "future"?
    If I had to explain that difference to my students, what should I tell them?

    Thank you.
  2. lainyn

    lainyn Senior Member

    Canadian English
    You can say "later" as a way of saying good-bye, as a short form of "see you later", but you cannot use "later on" in this way.

    You can use either expression as a way of indicating the passing of time.

    Ex.:Later, Jimmy called her house to see if she made it home safe.
    Or: Later on, Jimmy called her house to see if she made it home safe.

    Oops! I didn't notice that this explanation was for the students as well. In that case, it might be good to mention that in my opinion, the preposition "on" means absolutely nothing. "Later" and "Later on" can both be thought of as short forms for "Later on in time" (although no one says the long form).
  3. te gato

    te gato Senior Member

    Calgary, Alberta
    Alberta--TGE (te gato English)
    Hey Art GF;
    'Later on' suggests the future....
    'We will have the math test now and later on we will have the science test.'
    'If you are good later on we will go play in the park.'

    te gato;)
  4. ps139

    ps139 Senior Member

    USA, English
    Good point, "later on" really is short for "later on in time." This might not be evident to non-native speakers.
    Where I'm from, sometimes I hear someone say "later on" in the same context as "see you later." I've never been a fan of this as it just doesn't sound right, but lots of people use it. Its colloquial, I'd never suggest using "later on" in that context (asa goodbye) in any formal or business matters.
  5. ojyram Senior Member

    Tampa, Fl, USA
    USA English (Learning Spanish)
    Although later and later on mean the same thing, later seems the safe word to use when in doubt. I believe later can always be substituted for later on, but not the other way around.

    1. We will have the math test now, and later on (or later) we will have the science test.
    2. If you are good, later on (or later) we will go to the park.
    3. I arrived later than she did. (Later on will not work here.)

    I would use later in formal or professional communication. Later on is more informal and even if gramatically correct may not fit in some contexts, but I cannot cite a rule.
  6. ojyram Senior Member

    Tampa, Fl, USA
    USA English (Learning Spanish)
    1. She arrived home safely. This road is safe.
    Please drive safely. She is a safe driver.
    Safe is an adjective, safely is an adverb.

    2. This sentence needs a comma, or it will be ambiguous and confuse the poor child who will not know when to be good!
    If you are good, later on we will go to the park.
    If you are good later on, we will go to the park.
  7. redpen New Member

    USA, English
    The addition of the word "on" is superfluous in almost every case. Just say or write "later."
  8. te gato

    te gato Senior Member

    Calgary, Alberta
    Alberta--TGE (te gato English)
    Yes I know...
    Thank you for pointing out my errors...:D
    it is that finger to brain thing again...

    te gato;)
  9. garryknight Senior Member

    Kent, UK
    UK, English
    If I was saying goodbye (temporarily) to a friend and I said "see you later", it would be unspecific and would mean that I'm certain we'll see each other at some unspecified point in the future. However, if I said "see you later on" it would be to remind her/him that we'd made plans to meet at some time later that day. So the two phrases can have a different meaning in this particular context.

    Also, in some contexts, 'later on' can mean further on in time than 'later'. "I'll do the dishes later, then later on I'll take the dog for a walk" (i.e. after doing the dishes).

    But both of these uses (and, I'm sure, others) are bound to vary from person to person, let alone from region to region.
  10. kuleshov Senior Member

    Spain Spanish
    According to the Longman Dictionary of Common Errors-New Edition- "Later on" is only used for the DISTANT future.
  11. mjscott Senior Member

    How far off into the future is distant? I think that garryknight's dishwashing puts dogwalking far enough into the distance to warrant a later on. Maybe later on needs something between now and then (like washing the dishes) in order to warrant its use.
  12. garryknight Senior Member

    Kent, UK
    UK, English
    You haven't seen how long it takes me to do the dishes... ;)
  13. te gato

    te gato Senior Member

    Calgary, Alberta
    Alberta--TGE (te gato English)
    Hey all;

    Are we not getting a little too picky here???

    We all know that it is used for the 'future'...and I agree with mjscott..and ..garryknight..How far do you want to go in the future??

    To me..five minutes from now is the future...

    I do not think a specified time frame was ever thought of for this term...
    Go by what you think is correct...
    you want to use it for 10 min. from now...15 min....20 min...25 min..yadda,yadda...I do not think the 'Grammar Police' are going to come and issue you a $150.00 time violation ticket..for improper usage..:D

    Just my thought
    te gato;)
  14. bolzano217 Member

    Reading, UK
    Dear all,

    I wonder is there any analogy between later vs. later on and now and from now on ?

    If I am not mistaking, from now on means "starting now and continuing into the future ". For example, "I have made a mistake. From now on, I will be more careful".

    Does later on have an analogous meaning of "starting at some point in the future/future-in-the-past and continuing from there"? For example, "Somebody stole a TV from their house. Later on, they would always lock their doors."

  15. Jvenmax New Member

    Hello everybody!

    I will paste here a section of a writing I was working on which contains a "later on". I felt that using "later on" was more suitable than using "later" in this case:

    << ...I started with my HP55 (70’s) and later on with the first PC’s and their oldie programming language: BASIC (earliest 80’s)...>>

    I wanted to express that something occurred in the past but pointing out that the programming BASIC language activity came some portion of time afterwards the HP55 thing (actually it does not matter how much time passed in between).

    I felt that that "later on" came naturally and, from my standpoint, it is an example of the use of “future in the past”…


  16. Jvenmax New Member

    I definitively love this construction!!! Outstanding, mjscott!!

  17. mauri67 Member

    Reading this discussion prompted me a doubt.
    Is it correct to say " I'll be back in touch (sometimes) later on in June"?
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2013

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